Film Review: Tomorrow, When the War Began

At best, Tomorrow, When the War Began is a mildly entertaining blockbuster. At worse, it is a film that feels overlong and shows a complete lack of innovation, except for its setting.

Ellie and Corrie decide to go on a camping trip with five of their schoolmates during the summer. The teenagers have a fun time, but when they return home it is eerily quiet. With none of their parents or anyone else around, the teenagers discover their town has been invaded. Their only chance of survival is to fight back…

Tomorrow, When the War Began is standard invasion fare, with little distinguishing it from the plethora of other films that focus on this theme. An unlikely group of individuals fight to survive in this formulaic movie. There is nothing that stands out; director and screenwriter Stuart Beattie shows little originality with this film.

Despite being an hour and forty-five minutes in length, Tomorrow, When the War Began seems a lot longer than this. There are periods in the film when the momentum completely falters. Although some exposition is necessary at the beginning of the film, it takes too long for the action to commence. Moreover, the ending of the film feels rather anticlimactic, given the sometimes meandering pace up to this point.

The dialogue in the film is at times awful. While the banter between the teens at the beginning appears fairly natural, some of the lines after the turning point are truly cringeworthy. Although the Australian rural setting is little different to the usual American fare, it offers little else besides some picturesque scenery. Production values in the film are good. The big action set pieces are minimal, though, with more of the duration given to the teens hiding rather than fighting.

Performances are adequate in Tomorrow, When the War Began. However, as protagonist Ellie, Caitlin Stasey’s attempts at intensity feel less than convincing. Elsewhere, Rachel Hurd-Wood and Lincoln Lewis are a little more believable in their fear as Corrie and Kevin. What is refreshing about the film is that all the actors look like regular teenagers, especially compared to the overly good-looking types that litter Hollywood films of this ilk.

Tomorrow, When the War Began is instantly forgettable. The film is comparable to 2010’s Skyline, with its emphasis on the downtime between events, rather than the events themselves. Unfortunately, this just isn’t very interesting for viewers. The ending indicates a guaranteed sequel, but it is highly questionable whether a film such as Tomorrow, When the War Began deserves a wide release, let alone a follow up.

Film Review: Skyline

At a certain point in Skyline, how soon depends on your patience, you will wish the protagonists would just succumb to their fate so this awful film will end. The special effects are decent, but sadly little else is.

Elaine and Jarrod are awoken by strange bright lights shining into the Los Angeles penthouse apartment. People are drawn to these lights, created by an alien presence. The couple and their friends must fight for survival as the human population is being decimated…

Skyline is a mess in all departments, bar the visual effects. Perhaps this is not surprising considering the directors, Colin and Greg Strause, are visual effects veterans (having only previously directed AVPR: Alien vs Predator – Requiem) and it is the first script from both Liam O’Donnell and Joshua Cordes, again with backgrounds in effects. The film was financed independently by the Strause brothers, rather than funded by a major studio. Whilst their independence is admirable, perhaps major studio executives may have spotted what a disaster the film is in time to salvage it.

Skyline is a by-number disaster picture that owes a debt to Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day. Unlike the 1996 film, however, Skyline lacks the pacing and momentum to make it an enjoyable movie. Following the initial attack, subsequent significant events are minimal. The story drags, failing to give viewers any indication of when a climax will arise.

The very ending of the film is quite bizarre, showing a slither of originality hitherto unseen. What precedes is stock disaster movie scenarios; aborted attempts at escape, close brushes with danger and the extermination of survivors all feature in Skyline.

Nevertheless, perhaps the most deplorable aspect of the film is the awful dialogue and acting. Some may find it amusing how poor this is, however it quickly grows tiresome. The dialogue is hackneyed; its sub-standard quality is exemplified by the terrible delivery from most of the cast members.

A flashback sequences at the beginning of the film, which gives some background to the protagonists, attempts to elicit from the audience some concern for these characters later down the line. This fails miserably, as the one-dimensional characters are difficult to engage with. Scottie Thompson and David Zayas, in particular, are entirely unconvincing in their delivery of lines, while it doesn’t seem that Eric Balfour attempts to display emotion.

The special effects appear convincing; with Skyline‘s modest budget being used well in this regard. Michael Watson’s cinematography is also one of the few positives of the movie. Sadly, these are not enough to keep the film afloat.

Skyline seems to be the result of what happens when a group of visual effects designers, with little other experience, decide they also have the prowess to write and direct a feature. Instead of just showing the film within their social circle, Skyline has been granted a wide release. It really should not have been.